Cyber Saturday—Google and Softbank Star Nikesh Arora’s Next Act? Leading Cyber Giant Palo Alto Networks
Good morning, Cyber Saturday readers.
Nikesh Arora has found his next act. On June 6th, the business superstar is set to become the new CEO of Palo Alto Networks, a company that has proven itself as one of the brightest lights in the cybersecurity industry. (He spoke to Fortune about his latest career move here.)
For those who may not know Arora, here’s a sleek portrait Fortune painted a couple of years ago. He is a top operator whom Eric Schmidt, the longtime Google honcho, once described as “the finest analytical businessman I have ever worked with.” He is a billion-dollar bet-maker who has plunked down gobs and gobs of cash on ascendant, international startups, such as Didi (the “Uber of China”) and Snapdeal (the “Amazon of India”). He is a techie talent whom Masayoshi Son, the famously hands-on CEO of Japanese telecom conglomerate Softbank, once named his successor (before “Masa” backtracked, opting to control his baby for up to another decade).
Oh, and lest I forget: Perhaps most illustriously, Arora is a man whom Fortune once christened India’s “Elvis of business.”
Although Arora has little to no experience in cybersecurity, he has loads when it comes to building up corporate behemoths. As Google’s ex-Euro-boss and later chief business officer, he helped transform the ad-seller into the profit-minting powerhouse it is today. He helped instill discipline into the quirky Internet upstart, focusing its untamed energy into unstoppable commercial force. And during his brief stint at Softbank, which has since risen to become arguably the biggest player in tech investing, he made his mark indelibly known.
Arora’s track record provides some insight into what we can expect from his tenure at Palo Alto Networks. In the past year, the computer firewall-maker’s stock price has gushed 90%, but its losses have grown as well. I wager that Arora will aim to shore up the firm’s finances, but not before furthering a recent shopping spree, which has included acquiring Evident.io, a cloud security startup, and Secdo, a security task automator, over the past few months. In partnership with Mark McLaughlin, Palo Alto Networks’ departing CEO and enduring vice chairman, Arora is poised to continue shaping the company into a platform player, on top of which developers can create and deploy their own security software and tools. The aim: keep Palo Alto Networks ahead as the go-to standard for businesses seeking to stay secure as they transition to cloud infrastructures, like Amazon Web Services.
Already the impending succession has shown results. Palo Alto Networks’ share price—$209.19 at market close on Friday—rose more than 3% in after-hours trading. Investors are, it would appear, all shook up over the news.
Have a great weekend.
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’sdaily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.
No agency left behind. The U.S. government’s security is in a sorry state, per two new reports. In the first, the Department of Homeland Security discovered an abundance of cellphone surveillance devices, called IMSI catchers, outside the White House and other sensitive locations around the nation’s capital, reports The Washington Post. In the other, as Wired reports, the Office of Management and Budget found that three-quarters of 96 surveyed federal agencies are “at-risk” or “high risk” for security breaches. Are we surprised?
Robots on the battlefield. A lucrative, multimillion-dollar contract for Google to provide AI tech to the U.S. military has sparked a heated controversy within the company. On the one hand, defense work presents a potentially big revenue opportunity for the tech giant—and competitors like Amazon and Microsoft have had few qualms about pursuing this line of business. Yet the weapon-related work has exposed a culture rift within Google, whose longtime “Don’t be evil” mantra seems, at least to some employees, philosophically opposed to bolstering military might.
New masters. Verint, a software company based in the U.S., is said to be in talks to buy NSO Group, an Israeli maker of spyware, for about $1 billion, according to an unnamed source who spoke to the Wall Street Journal. If the deal goes through, then private equity firm Francisco Partners, which owns a controlling stake in NSO, will become the largest shareholder of Verint. NSO came under fire last year after reports that the Mexican government had used its Pegasus mobile spyware to surveil citizens.
Data breach roundup. Chinese security researchers discovered an “epic” remote code execution vulnerability in an upcoming blockchain platform, EOS, that could have sunk the system had they not caught it sooner. Hackers are also targeting people looking to participate in EOS’s $4 billion “initial coin offering” with phishing scams, as my colleague Jen Wieczner reports. Plus: A hacker defaced the website of Ticketfly, a ticket-vending website, and claimed to have stolen a database of customer information. A fitness app, PumpUp app, was recently leaking people’s private data through an unsecured, Amazon-hosted server. And someone hijacked Buffalo Wild Wings’ Twitter account and posted nasty messages.
If only we could get rid of spam email this way.
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It started with money, as it so often does in New York. A crisp $100 bill slipped across the smooth surface of the mid-century-inspired concierge desk at 11 Howard, the sleek new boutique hotel in Soho. Looking up, Neffatari Davis, the 25-year-old concierge, who goes by “Neff,” was surprised to see the cash had come from a young woman who seemed to be around her age. She had a heart-shaped face and pouty lips surrounded by a wild tangle of red hair, her eyes framed by incongruously chunky black glasses that Neff, an aspiring cinematographer with an eye for detail, identified as Céline. She was looking, she said in an accent that sounded European, for “the best food in Soho.”
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